Labours Of Hercules By Agatha Christie

poirot said quietly but with authority in his voice

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Unformatted text preview: e he had first noticed the two grim women who held his life and Elsie's in their evil talons. He said aloud: "Curse them! Damn them for a pair of devilish blood-sucking harpies!" A slight cough made him spin round. He found himself facing the luxuriantly moustached stranger who had just come out from the shade of the trees. Harold found it difficult to know what to say. This little man must have almost certainly overheard what he had just said. Harold, at a loss, said somewhat ridiculously: "Oh -- er -- good-afternoon." In perfect English the other replied: "But for you, I fear, it is not a good afternoon ?" "Well -- er -- I -- " Harold was in difficulties again. The little man said: "You are, I think, in trouble. Monsieur ? Can I be of any assistance to you ?" "Oh no thanks, no thanks! Just blowing off steam, you know." The other said gently: "But I think, you know, that I could help 235 you. I am correct, am I not, in connecting your troubles with two ladies who were sitting on the terrace just now ?" Harold stared at him. "Do you know anything about them?" He added: 'Who are you, anyway?3' As though confessing to royal birth the little man said modestly: "/ am Hercule Poirot. Shall we walk a little way into the wood and you shall tell me your story ? As I say, I think I can aid you." To this day, Harold is not quite certain what made him suddenly pour out the whole story to a man to whom he had only spoken a few minutes before. Perhaps it was overstrain. Anyway, it happened. He told Hercule Poirot the whole story. The latter listened in silence. Once or twice he nodded his head gravely. When Harold came to a stop the other spoke dreamily. "The Stymphalean Birds, with iron beaks, who feed on human flesh and who dwell by the Stymphalean Lake. . . . Yes, it accords very well.35 "I beg your pardon," said Harold staring. 236 Perhaps, he thought, this curious-looking little man was mad! Hercule Poirot smiled. "I reflect, that is all. I have my own way of looking at things, you understand. Now as to this business of yours. You are very unpleasantly placed.3' Harold said impatiently: "I don't need you to tell me that!" Hercule Poirot went on: "It is a serious business, blackmail. These harpies will force you to pay — and pay—and pay again! And if you defy them, well, what happens ?" Harold said bitterly: "The whole thing comes out. My career's ruined, and a wretched girl who's never done anyone any harm will be put through hell, and God knows what the end of it all will be!" "Therefore," said Hercule Poirot, "something must be done!" Harold said baldly: "What ?" Hercule Poirot leaned back, half-closing his eyes. He said (and again a doubt of his sanity crossed Harold's mind) : "It is the moment for the castanets of bronze." 237 Harold said: "Are you quite mad ?55 The other shook h...
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